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Pa. shale permitting picks up in southwest corner in July

Pennsylvania's shale gas drillers shifted their focus away from the dry gas counties in the northeast part of the state and toward the liquids-rich counties around Pittsburgh in the southwest, according to the latest state data.

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Across Pennsylvania, producers pulled 118 well permits in July, 5% more than last year and a 31% jump over June, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection's database on Aug. 5. The drillers continued their pattern, in these capital-conscious times, of front-loading wells into the first month of the quarter.

EQT Corp., the state and the nation's largest gas producer by volume, pulled 29 permits to drill in July, 32% more than in the same month a year ago, the numbers showed. The permits were mostly in Washington and Greene counties in southwest Pennsylvania. The two counties were home to the most permitting in the state, as EQT was joined by neighbors Range Resources Corp., CNX Resources Corp. and supermajor Chevron Corp.

Private equity-backed drillers pulled the most permits in Westmoreland and Butler counties to the east and north of Pittsburgh. Apollo Global Management LLC-backed Apex Energy (PA) LLC pulled 10 permits in Westmoreland, three more than last year. EnCap Investments LP-backed PennEnergy Resources LLC pulled 10 permits to drill in Butler County.

Activity in the northeast counties was subdued, as the leading driller Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. pulled one-third fewer permits in July than it did a year ago. Major northeast players, such as Southwestern Energy Co. and Spanish oil and gas producer Repsol SA, pulled no permits.